Minority-Serving Colleges at Forefront of Remediation Reform

In the absence of fast, comprehensive education reform that would create K-12 schools capable of graduating students ready for college, colleges and universities all over the country have faced up to the inevitable by offering remedial courses to incoming freshmen. However, despite these efforts, statistics clearly show that students who require remediation upon graduation from high school are less likely to receive a college degree in a timely manner and are more likely to drop out prior to completing their college program.

The number of students who require additional prep prior to tackling college-level work is especially high at colleges that enroll a large number of minorities, which is why these kinds of minority-serving institutions – or MSIs – are at the forefront of remedial education reform. DiverseEducation.com reports that a recently issued brief from the Institute for Higher Education Policy points to MSIs as vital to any system-wide overhaul of how remedial courses are designed and taught.

Remedial education students often fail to graduate at the same rate as non-remedial education students. For instance, according to a report titled "Remediation: Higher Education's Bridge to Nowhere," remedial education students graduate from two- and four-year colleges at a rate of 9.5 percent in three years and 35.1 percent in six years, respectively, as opposed to non-remedial education students, who graduate from two- and four-year colleges at a rate of 13.9 and 55.7 percent, respectively.

Since 2009, IHAP has been working with Lumina Foundation's MSI-Models of Success program to improve graduation rates and to increase academic attainment at minority-serving colleges and universities. The program concluded this year, and participants and observers are awaiting a report from Mathematica Policy Research which will take a comprehensive look at how effective the program was at reaching its goals.

The program had schools try a number of different approaches to remediation, including offering summer courses, accelerated courses and even dual enrollment – allowing the students to take college-level courses and remedial courses simultaneously.

Until the Mathematica paper is made public, the success of each or any of these approaches is hard to judge conclusively, but it hasn't stopped schools that participated from speculating about the eventual findings.

Becky Rosenberg, director of CSUMB's Center for Teaching, Learning & Assessment at Cal State University Monterey Bay, or CSUMB, a Hispanic Serving Institution and one of the 25 MSIs that participated in the Models of Success program, said the school's efforts had made a "noticeable but not dramatic" difference in retention rates for remedial students.

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